With the scores locked at 4-all in a palpably tense final, 17-year-old Zarrie Wood was tasked with sinking the 8-ball to make history at the national ladies’ pool pairs earlier this month.
A shot she says she would sink 99 times out of a hundred, the added pressure of the crowd, prize money and a national title made it anything but a regulation play.
Zarrie calmly rolled the black towards the pocket as it bounced off the edges before finally dropping as she and playing partner Jojo Coleman became the youngest champions in the competition’s history.
The young duo beat out 120 of the best ladies’ players in the country to claim the title.
“At the time it was pretty surreal, and we have been joking about how we don’t even know how we got here,” Zarrie says.
Their close bond was crucial in helping to keep calm during the nerve-wracking final.
“We just joked with each other to try keep things relaxed and bring down the pressure.”
The pair first met at junior nationals in 2016 and have been friends ever since.
They conceded plenty of experience to their opponents in Christchurch, having only played together five times in competition.
Their road to the championship started with a round robin before teams entered a top 32 which was then whittled down to the final two pairs.
Zarrie and Jojo’s opponents were heavily favoured to take the title, after defeating the 2018 champions in the opening round.
Both the semi-final and championship game went to a 5-4 tie break with the young women holding their nerve to claim victory.
“It could have gone either way,” Zarrie says.
Zarrie’s win was made even more impressive as pool practice took a backseat this year as she balances an intensive school schedule and prepares to study architecture in Wellington next year.
As well as pocketing the winning shot, Zarrie also took home $1500 dollars to share between her and Jojo.
After treating herself to a couple of new pairs of shoes, Zarrie will put the winnings into her savings for university.
The game is in the genes of Zarrie, with both her parents having enjoyed successful pool careers.
“It was natural for me to start playing,” she says. “I watched mum and dad since I was young.”
The young player’s potential was evident back in 2016 when she was named most promising player at nationals.
While she says study will be the focus over the coming months, she will be sure to keep her skills sharp as she sets her sights on the single’s national championship.
“That’s the goal now.”